NASCAR’s Five Biggest Winners of 2013

Johnson Awards

Good, bad or indifferent, 2013 had its fill of memorable moments. Sprinkled among Spingate, the big brouhaha at Auto Club and the tragic death of Jason Leffler (you live on in our hearts Left Turn) are stories of triumph.

Today we celebrate those triumphs…..

Kurt Busch– Quite often, a driver who leaves a team like Busch did Penske ends up going the way of Great Northern Spotted Owl. While he didn’t win a race in 2013, what Busch accomplished little Denver-based Furniture Row Racing was something akin to a Christmas miracle. Kurt enjoyed a career revival that opened the door to join Stewart-Haas Racing, and Furniture Row achieved relevance, qualifying for its first Chase ever.

Kevin Harvick– It was supposed to be a lame duck season right? Kevin Harvick capped off his career with Richard Childress Racing equaling his career best season finish (3rd) and reeling off a quartet of wins. Playing out the string? Not Harvick. He joins the likes of Busch, Danica Patrick and good buddy Tony Stewart at SHR.

Joey Logano – Showing some spunk and making his first Chase, it’s time to put away the “bust” label when making reference to Joey Logano. His maneuver against Denny Hamlin may have earned him as many haters as fans, but you had better believe Logano’s days as a Sprint Cup punching bag are over. to go with his win at Michigan, Logano earned 11 top fives and 19 top tens, easily career highs for the one-time wunderkind. The move to Penske gave Logano a fresh start, and its paid big time dividends.

Matt Kenseth– You never really know how changing teams will go; fans often react with a bit of understandable trepidation when their favorite successfully driver changes firesuits. For Kenseth, the move to Joe Gibbs Racing was just short of a dream season, with a second place finish in the season’s standings and an NSCS high seven wins. Just as impressive as his numbers was his conquest of tracks like Martinsville, which had proven troublesome to his fortunes earlier in his career.

Jimmie Johnson– How could we leave the champion off this list? Jimmie Six Pack started off with a Daytona 500 victory, and save for some struggles in August, was stout throughout. Consistent excellence has been the definition of Johnson’s career. You could says Johnson is a little like pizza: when he’s good, he’s good; when he’s bad, he’s still pretty good.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Kyle Busch rang up four wins and avoided many of the pitfalls that had tended to dog him in the Chase. He may not have won a race in 2013, yet Dale Earnhardt’s top five finish may be labeled a success. Borrowing a page from the likes of James Hylton, Junior earned his points with solid finish after solid finish, and steering clear of protracted cold spells. Four time champion Jeff Gordon finished on a strong note, letting fans know there’s still some gas in the tank.